Five great 20th century Presidential landslides

In 1920, Republican Warren G. Harding won 404 out of 531 electoral votes

Republican Warren G. Harding won 60.32 percent of the popular vote in the 1920 Presidential election, with a margin of victory over Democrat James M. Cox of 26.17 percent.  Harding swept the Northeast, Midwest and West, losing only the Democratic Solid South.

Republicans were the normal U.S. majority party from 1900 through 1928.  They won six of eight U.S. Presidential elections.

In 1936, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won 523 out of 531 electoral votes

Incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt won 60.8 percent of the popular vote in the 1936 Presidential election, with a margin of victory over Republican Alfred E. Landon of 24.26 percent. Roosevelt swept the country except for two New England states, giving rise to the quip, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

Roosevelt’s New Deal made the Democrats the majority party.  They won six out of the eight Presidential elections from 1932 through 1964.

In 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson won 486 out of 538 electoral votes

Incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson won 61.05 percent of the popular vote in the 1964 Presidential election, with a margin of victory over Republican Barry Goldwater of 22.58 percent.  Johnson carried every state that Harding carried except one, but lost five Deep South states that went Democratic in 1920.

The Democratic majority seemed shaky after Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower won the Presidency in 1952 and 1956, and Democrat John F. Kennedy won with less than a 1 percent margin in the popular vote in 1960.  But Democrat Lyndon Johnson won a landslide when he convinced voters that his opponent threatened the New Deal gains.

In 1972, Republican Richard M. Nixon won 520 out of 538 electoral votes

Incumbent Republican President Richard M. Nixon won 60.67 percent of the popular vote in the 1972 Presidential election, with a margin of victory over Democrat George McGovern of 23.15 percent.  Nixon swept the country except for Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Nixon restored the Republican Party to majority status in Presidential elections.  Republicans won five out of the six Presidential elections from 1968 through 1988.

In 1984, Republican Ronald Reagan won 525 out of 538 electoral votes

Incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan won 58.77 percent of the popular vote in the 1984 Presidential election, with a margin of victory over Democrat Walter Mondale of 18.21 percent.  Reagan swept the country except for Minnesota and the District of Coluumbia. in 1984.

Reagan’s victory appeared to consolidate the Republican Party as the majority party.  Yet from 1992 on, political power see-sawed between Republicans and Democrats.  In 1992, 1996 and 2000, neither the Democratic nor Republican candidate received 50 percent of the votes cast.  Republican George W. Bush’s popular vote margin in 2004 was only 2.46 percentage points.  Barack Obama’s margin in 2008 was a solid but less-than-landslide 7.27 percentage points.

My guess is that the margin in 2012 will be narrow.  I think voters will continue to be dissatisfied with both parties until the leaders of one of them adequately address the nation’s economic problems.

Click on List of United States presidential elections by popular vote margin for the Wikipedia tabulation.  The vote share of Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates doesn’t add up to 100 percent because they’re never the only candidates on every state’s ballot.

Afterthought 10/26/2016

What these maps show is the stability of the American two-party system in the 20th century and the fact that even an overwhelming electoral college victory is never permanent.

Republicans appeared to have an overwhelming national majority in the 1920s.  But this was wiped out by the inadequate response of President Hoover to cope with the Great Depression.

President Franklin Roosevelt, following his overwhelming victory in 1936, took this as a mandate to oppose conservative Democratic Senators in the 1938 primaries and to reorganize the Supreme Court to get decisions more to his liking.   The result was the Republican-Southern Democratic alliance that put a stop to further New Deal legislation.

In 1964, the victory of President Lyndon Johnson over Senator Barry Goldwater was so overwhelming that many pundits feared for the future of the Republican Party.   Four years later, after race riots in America’s major cities and President Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon made a comeback and pundits talked of a permanent Republican majority.

The 1972 election appeared to confirm the Republican majority status.  But then came Watergate and the election of Jimmy Carter.  Ronald Reagan’s victories in 1980 and 1984 seemed to show that Carter’s election was an aberration.  But then Democrats went on to win four of the next seven elections (and the popular vote in one of the other three).

A lifetime of following politics has taught me that I can’t predict the future.  But it is certainly possible that, given Donald Trump’s weakness as a campaigner, that Hillary Clinton will win a landslide victory.

But I don’t think this will assure Democrats of a permanent majority.  Quite the contrary!   Based on her past record, Clinton is highly likely to get the United States bogged down in more quagmire wars, as Lyndon Johnson did.   The USA is due for another recession, and she is highly likely to be most concerned with shielding Wall Street from the consequences, as Herbert Hoover was.  A landslide victory will not guarantee her reelection, any more than it did Richard Nixon’s.

Afterthought 12/10/2016.  The outcome of this year’s election was not something I would have expected—an Electoral College victory for Trump despite a popular vote majority for Clinton.  Here’s another interesting site with maps of,presidential election results.

Lost Cause: Seeing American Through the Losing Candidates’ Map by Lena Groeger for ProPublica.

Update 1/1/2017.  Red and blue maps (and the Lost Cause link has been updated)


Click on Maps of the 2016 Election Results from the University of Michigan.


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3 Responses to “Five great 20th century Presidential landslides”

  1. Name Says:

    “margin in 2012 will be narrow”
    And yes, Obama 2012 reelection was by small popular vote margin, according to the table in that Wikipedia link (which links back to this page, BTW).

    From quick look-thru of Popular vote margins, US Presidential, Wikipedia
    Landslides appear to be associated with lower turnouts. ‘Passable’ turnouts associated with landslides are, FDR’s 1936; LBJ; T Roosevelt 1904; Eisenhower 1956 & 1952.
    Larger turnouts begin at somewhat lower win margins:Buchanan 45.29% margin, 78.90% turnout; U Grant 11.80% margin, 71.30% turnout
    Close/low margin at low turnout: Carter; G W Bush 2000.

    1860 Lincoln’s first win was by very low popular percentage.
    I had assumed Confederate states votes weren’t tallied in 1864 Lincoln’s 2nd win, but that Wikipedia table shows 1864 win’s popular vote count differing little from 1860 win’s.
    Both 1960 and 1864 had very high turnout.

    Either landslide, slim margin or between are independent of the high or low ‘legacy reputation’ of the president.

    Only John Quincy Adams 1824 and Rutherford Hayes 1876 won with significant negative popular vote.

    Data presentation of interest:
    Bar chart shows miniscule ‘third party’ percentage or significantly large third party percentage. this could be interesting to compare to the margin of winner’s popular vote.
    1912 extreme third party damage by T Roosevelt as Progressive Party candidate. Wilson won with 41.84% of popular vote. (Republican candidate took a close 3rd place of popular vote. Other “third party” candidate(s) took significant percentage, though likely without any electoral points.) IMO Wilson’s 14.44% margin over Roosevelt can’t be seen simplistically.
    I lack the time to try some spreadsheet manipulations of that Wikipedia page data combined with the Electoral College margins, US Presidential, Wikipedia page data.


  2. From Nixon to Clinton – Jacobin Dev Says:

    […] — as the great unifier. Indeed, he went on to defeat McGovern in one of the all-time greatest landslides in American […]


  3. Trump’s Knock-Knock Joke on America (February 13, 2020) – Election 2016: No Way Trump Says:

    […] rock-ribbed Republican strongholds. Roosevelt won the Electoral College vote in 1936 by 523-8, the worst wipeout in modern American political history; bigger than Johnson (1964), Nixon (1972), or Reagan […]


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